The 2023 legislative session of the Indiana General Assembly has ended.
It was a long march, one filled with hardship for the lawmakers. There were times during the four months of their labors that the legislators came perilously close to running out of innocent Hoosiers they could persecute, bad situations they could make worse and solidly functioning dynamics to ruin.
Ah, but our lawmakers are nothing if they are not resourceful.
Time and again, they found ways to create problems where none had existed before.
Consider the role they played in “reforming” Indiana’s schools.
The morning after the session ended, EdChoice—an advocacy group pushing for school vouchers—issued a press release crowing about the legislature’s action to make Indiana’s voucher program one of the most expensive in the nation.
“We are blessed to have many great policymakers who support parents, particularly House Speaker Todd Huston,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of EdChoice.
Among other glories, the EdChoice release touted the fact that Hoosier families of four making up to $222,000 a year now will be eligible for school vouchers.
This means that Indiana taxpayers—including those working for minimum wage—will be subsidizing the decisions by families earning almost a quarter-million dollars a year to send their kids to tony private schools.
That may sound outrageous, but think about the hardships these well-to-do families might have experienced if the legislators had not decided to play Robin Hood in reverse.
Why, some of them might have had to downgrade their rides from a Rolls Royce to a BMW or—shudder—even an Audi just to pay junior’s tuition. Worse, they might have had to shrink the Olympic-sized backyard swimming pool they wanted down to something so small it couldn’t be spotted from outer space.
Or, heaven forbid, they even might have had to cancel the Christmas ski trip to the Alps.
Thank goodness our lawmakers saw the rank injustice in forcing the much put-upon wealthy to make such sacrifices and instead imposed heavier burdens on the middle class and working poor to solve the problem.
And Enlow is right—special kudos should go to Speaker Huston, R-Fishers.
Lesser men might have heeded concerns that their judgment on questions regarding schools might be clouded, given that he spent almost a decade working in the private education industry. Last year, when critics were churlish to suggest he might have a conflict of interest, he resigned his post at the College Board.
When he left, the College Board was paying him just under a half-million dollars a year.
No wonder the speaker feels the pain of the haves so acutely—and is willing to move heaven and earth to help other members of his class.
But it wasn’t just in ensuring that the privileged would have their privileges further supported when it comes to education that the legislature showed creativity.
No, our lawmakers also had the perspicacity to discern that books and learning are a greater threat to today’s students than guns and school shootings are.
That’s why they worked tirelessly to push for teachers to be armed. The legislators realized that teachers don’t have enough to do and generously helped the educators fill up their copious spare time with the option of becoming underpaid security guards—as well as the likely first targets for future school shooters.
But that did not end the legislators’ service to our state’s young.
The lawmakers also had the wisdom to recognize that reading Judy Blume or Indianapolis resident John Green, learning that human slavery in America might have been a problem or acknowledging that not all people are white or straight presents a more significant danger to students than encountering a disturbed human being armed with an AR-15 does.
So, the lawmakers opted to make it harder for students to read books while making it easier for guns to find their way into schools.
Such creative thinking is truly remarkable.
Few can match our elected officials at finding solutions for problems that do not exist—and for expanding problems that really do exist.
The best thing?
These legislators are all ours.
Long ago, an Indiana author wrote:
“Ain’t God good to Indiana?
“Ain’t He, fellers? Ain’t He, though?”
Maybe Hoosier students, rich and poor, still are allowed to read that.
Given how terrified our lawmakers are of learning, it’s hard to know for sure.